Back in the Saddle

Back in the Saddle

Ka-clump, ka-clump, ka-clump galloped the Johanson horses as the family raced across their pasture in northern Wisconsin.

“Yesss, I win again!” exclaimed 12-year-old Wendy.

“That buckskin of yours has a little racehorse in him,” shouted Wendy’s father, Mr. Johanson, as he sped into the corral on his dapple gray. Soon the rest of the family joined them as they galloped near the horse shed.

“So you won again, Wendy,” Mrs. Johanson said with a smile.

“No, Mom, Bucky is the real winner.” Wendy beamed as she gave her horse a squeeze around his neck.

Mr. and Mrs. Johanson and their six children hung up their saddles and bridles in the tack house. As they walked toward the large three-story farmhouse, Mrs. Johanson noticed Wendy holding her back and limping.

“Wendy, is your back bothering you again?” questioned her mother.

“Yeah, it’s a little tender today. I wish I knew what I did to it,” Wendy answered.

“Maybe when Dr. Stevenson sees you tomorrow, she can tell you what’s wrong,” her mom said.

The next morning Dr. Stevenson did some tests on Wendy. “Please stand straight for me,” the doctor requested.

Wendy stood as straight as she could, given the pain in her back.

“Now I want you to bend over and touch your feet,” the doctor continued.

As Wendy did so, Dr. Stevenson beckoned for Wendy’s mom to look at something. “Mrs. Johanson, do you see how Wendy’s back seems raised on this side?”

“Yes. I’ve never noticed that before,” Mrs. Johanson answered. “What causes that?”

“I believe your daughter has scoliosis,” responded Dr. Stevenson.

“What does that mean?” asked Wendy.

“It’s also known as curvature of the spine. If your spine were to keep bending, it could put pressure on your heart and limit your physical activity even more than it does now. Fortunately, we’ve discovered it early, so you can avoid the worst effects of scoliosis.”

“What can we do now?” asked Wendy’s mom.

“To prevent Wendy’s spine from getting more curved, we need to fit her for a brace. She will need to wear it for 16 hours a day.”

Wendy looked troubled.

“But don’t worry,” Dr. Stevenson went on. “Because Wendy’s scoliosis has been detected early, she probably won’t have to have surgery.”

“This is such a surprise,” exclaimed Mrs. Johanson. “Is there anything else we can do to help Wendy?”

“For the next several years she’s going to have to limit the amount of weight she picks up. And she should be careful about bending awkwardly or jostling her back,” responded Dr. Stevenson.

“What about horseback riding?” queried Mom.

“Do you have horses?” asked the doctor hesitantly.

Wendy and her mother both nodded.

“Wendy, in a few years, after your bones have done some growing, you can probably ride horses again,” said the doctor. “But right now I’d like you to stop.”

It was a silent trip home from the doctor’s office that day. Wendy’s spirits brightened, though, when two foster children joined their home that evening: Trisha and her little sister, Kathy.

Trisha was just a couple years older than Wendy, and the two girls shared a room. They quickly became friends.

When Sabbath came, the Johansons began getting ready to go on their usual horseback ride through the white pines that surrounded their farm. They had one extra horse,

a small Welsh pony named Paint, but there were now two extra people to go on the trail ride.

Wendy’s world seemed to come to a standstill. She knew she needed to take care of her back. And Trisha needed a horse to ride.

“Trisha, why don’t you let your sister, Kathy, ride Paint?

I want you to ride Bucky,” Wendy offered. “Just make sure you let him have his lead a bit, and he’ll be a real nice horse for you.”

Wendy could hardly believe that those words had come out of her mouth. She hated to give up riding, but she knew it was the right decision.

After everybody else saddled up, Wendy sat on top of the cedar fence of their corral and watched the riders plod down the path that led past the barn and across the horse pasture toward the white pines. She kept her eyes fixed on Bucky. A few tears trickled down her cheeks and landed in the sawdust inside the corral.

After she’d had a good long cry, Wendy talked to God. “Heavenly Father, You know how much riding means to me. And You know how I’ve always loved Bucky, the horse that You helped me to get. Lord, I don’t want to hurt my back, but if there is any way that I could ride again, I’d sure appreciate it. If not, then help me to accept Your will for my life.”

On many Sabbath afternoons after such a prayer, Wendy would sit on the top rail of the corral watching the riders as they cantered their horses out of the corral and across the countryside. How she wished that she could be the one riding Bucky instead of Trisha. At least Bucky has someone to ride him, she consoled herself.

“Are you faithfully using your back brace?” asked Dr. Stevenson when Wendy returned for her six-week checkup.

“Yes, but I’m sure glad I don’t have to wear that thing to bed,” said Wendy. “I don’t think I could get any sleep with it on.”

“And you’re not riding horses?” Dr. Stevenson asked over her glasses.

“No, I’m going to need a good back for the rest of my life. I have to take care of it now. So I’m not riding.”

“You seem to be doing well,” said Dr. Stevenson after finishing the examination. She turned to Mrs. Johanson. “May I have a word with you?”

As they stepped out of the room, Wendy wondered what the doctor wanted to talk to her mother about. But her mom returned to the waiting room before Wendy had time to think much about it.

A couple weeks later when Wendy got home from church school, she noticed an extra horse out in the pasture, a beautiful black gelding. She didn’t think much about the strange horse, because her father occasionally boarded extra horses on their farm.

But the following Sabbath afternoon when she went out to watch the rest of the family saddle up for the trail ride, she grew curious when she noticed the strange black gelding getting saddled up as well. She supposed that the owner would be along soon to ride with her family.

However, no one came, and eventually all the horses were ready to go, including the horse with the shiny black coat.

Then all the riders walked their horses toward Wendy, who was perched on the corral fence. Her dad held the bridle of the black beauty.

“Looks like he’s lonesome,” said Trisha with a sly smile, nodding toward the black horse. “I think he needs a rider.”

Everyone chuckled.

“Well, don’t look at me,” Wendy exclaimed. “You know I can’t ride horses anymore.”

“Maybe there is one breed a person with a mild case of scoliosis could ride,” teased her father, “if we could only find one up here in the north woods.”

Wendy’s mom beamed. “Honey, the other day when you had your visit with Dr. Stevenson, she told me about a horse called a Tennessee walker that has a very smooth gait. She said if you had a horse like that, you could ride.”

“This past week when I went on that ‘business trip,'” added Mr. Johanson, “I was really looking for a Tennessee walker. Happy birthday, Wendy.”

Wendy’s mouth dropped open. “But Dad, my birthday isn’t for another six months!”

“I know,” agreed her father. “But your birthday present is . . . today.”

Wendy leaned over from the fence rail, hugged her dad, and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Oh, Dad, how can I ever thank you?”

“Well, if you didn’t have back problems, I’d have you shovel out the barn,” he joked. “But just seeing you so happy is thanks enough.”

“Are we going riding or not?” teased Mrs. Johanson.

Wendy eased from the fence rail onto the back of the Tennessee walker. She walked the horse around the corral to get a feel for him. Eventually she got him to trot. She couldn’t believe a horse could trot so smoothly.

Wendy fell into line beside Trisha, who was riding Bucky. Reaching toward Bucky’s mane, she apologized, “Sorry, Bucky. You’re just too bouncy. But I’ll be right here beside you.”

As the family made their way toward the white pines, Wendy silently thanked her heavenly Father for helping her to continue riding.

“Dad,” she asked, “does this horse have a name?”

“He does if you give him one.” Her dad grinned.

“H’mmm . . .” pondered Wendy as they headed into the woods. “Maybe I’ll call him . . . Walker.”

Written by Ron Reese
Illustrated by Terry Crews

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Back in the Saddle

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